According to the Apostle John, it isn't enough to simply believe that Jesus is coming again . . . we must live as though He is already on His way.
Duty, Honor, Country
In my study at home I have a book entitled, “Lend me Your Ears”. It’s a book with more than a thousand pages dedicated to some of the greatest speeches and tributes delivered in history; from Socrates address before his judges as he is condemned to die to Charles the First, before he died on the scaffold .
It includes the defense of Martin Luther at the Diet of Worms and his famous finale, “Here I stand I can do none other.” It also includes the famous sermon of Jonathan Edwards, “Sinners in the hands of an angry God.”
There is the farewell address of George Washington; a challenge by Napoleon to his troops; the rallying message from Winston Churchill to the English people during World War II.
There is the famous speech of John F. Kennedy who borrowed thoughts and expressions from a much earlier speech by Abraham Lincoln, yet included his own famous line, “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.”
This book included Martin Luther King’s address delivered from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial exactly 100 years after Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation.
I also read the speech delivered to the Federal Convention in 1787; actually a speech that was read by a lawyer because its author – Benjamin Franklin – was too frail to read it himself, where the delegates gathered there in Philadelphia were challenged to adopt the Constitution of these United States.
This book also included Thomas Jefferson’s rebuke of the press for talking about things they shouldn’t and a rather shocking speech from a young Mark Twain where he made fun of the famous authors; Emerson, Holmes and Longfellow who happened to be sitting in the audience.
One of my favorite speeches was delivered by Douglas MacArthur at West Point in what would become his final address.
MacArthur had begun his military career of nearly 50 years as a student at West Point in 1899 and rose in rank to become the Supreme Commander of the allied forces through World War II.
Just 2 years before he died, at the age of 82, he was invited back to West Point where he addressed the Academy with a stirring challenge built around three words – duty, honor and country.
Let me pull out a paragraph from that speech in which MacArthur said, and I quote, “Duty, honor and country . . . these three words will teach us not to substitute words for action; to learn to stand up in the storm, but to have compassion on those who fall; to master yourself before you seek to master others; to have a heart that is clean and a goal that is high; to learn to laugh, yet never forget how to weep; to reach into the future, yet never neglect the past; to be serious, yet never take yourself too seriously. [These words] teach you, in this way, to be an officer and a gentleman. / William Safire, Lend Me Your Ears: Great Speeches in History (W.W. Norton & Company, 1992), p. 75
His speech was even more profound given the fact that they were coming from the lips of an old soldier . . . a man with little time left to live.
For quite some time now, we have been listening to another soldier of another sort deliver one message after another.
We’ve been studying the address of the Apostle John . . . a man in his early 90’s with just a few more years to live.
By the way, the difference between the speeches of statesman and heroes like the ones I’ve briefly mentioned and John the Apostle’s message is that the John’s message is not just inspiring, it is inspired.
These aren’t merely the words of a hero veteran of the faith – they are the words of God through John.
And as John begins to wrap up his inspired record in chapter 22 of his Book of Revelation, verses 6 through 21 form an epilogue – closing thoughts in this Spirit inspired speech – where John will challenge us and invite us and remind us and warn us and deepen us with powerful, God-breathed words.
Keep in mind that these are the closing words of God’s inspired Revelation.
These are the last words from God . . . for now; for we shall one day hear Him and see Him face to face.
If you have your Bibles, turn to John’s closing address in chapter 22 where you’ll notice right away that all that John saw and all that we’ve learned through this record of scripture is to produce certain responses.
And the first is anticipation.
Notice as the epilogue begins in verse 6. And he (the angel) said to me, “These words are faithful and true; and the Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets, sent His angel to show to His bond-servants the things which must soon take place.”
In other words, John, you weren’t seeing things! You didn’t make this stuff up.
Just as God’s spirit controlled the spirits of the prophets to deliver His inspired word in the past, so you have been under the management of the Holy Spirit to deliver my word about the future.
The Apostle Peter put it this way in 2 Peter 1:21, “No prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.”
But John has an edge in this process of inspiration – he’s an eyewitness to the prophetic panorama. Look down at verse 8 where John writes, I, John, am the one who heard and saw these things.
The timeless Creator pulled back the curtain of time and took John into the future where he could hear and see the drama of prophetic history unfold.
John is literally back from the future and he records what he heard and what he saw.
And what have we learned from John’s revelation?
The first few chapters of his Revelation revealed Christ’s challenge to the church, during this present church age.
Seven letters to seven churches not only span the course of church history but define the potential of every local church in every generation. The church is warned, encouraged, motivated and instructed in these special delivery letters.
Then the scene shifts dramatically from viewing the church on earth to seeing the church in heaven – singing a new song to their Redeemer.
How did the church go from earth to heaven? Paul answered that question when he wrote to the Thessalonians about the taking away – the rapture of the church – suddenly and without warning – whisked away to be with Christ just prior to what Jesus Christ earlier described in Matthew 24 as the time of tribulation.
And so, in that exact chronology, John’s revelation shifts back again from viewing the church now in heaven, to the tribulation which now begins on planet earth.
Most of the Book of Revelation covers this 7 year period of time – a time of unparalleled human suffering, demonic activity, cosmic disturbance, Jewish awakening, gospel preaching and global crises the world has ever seen.
Chapters 6-19 cover this intense period of time when the Antichrist forms his one world coalition and a one world religion.
He is the first horseman who rides onto the world’s stage – a peacemaker who manages for the first time in modern history to forge a time of peace on earth.
Weapons are laid down. Coexistence actually looks like it has a chance. People have tried to make it work – throughout human history. But then someone invents a bigger canon.
How do you coexist with someone who’s trying to kill you?
But the rider on the white horse – whom we learned is the Antichrist – will bring peace for a brief period of time.
But it all unravels as God’s wrath is unleashed on planet earth and from the four horsemen to the final pouring out of the bowl, God’s wrath and judgment pummel the earth.
As you study this period of 7 years, you discover five primary purposes that God accomplishes through the Tribulation:
- Israel will be revived and readied for her true Messiah’s second coming and His millennial kingdom on earth
- God’s sovereignty will be revealed throughout His creation – it will clearly be seen that this wasn’t our planet after all – it was His. This wasn’t our air or our water or our nature either – and it wasn’t mother earth after all, it was Father God who rules all things.
- The Tribulation also becomes a time when the counterfeit master plan of Satan is exposed; it briefly succeeds and then falls apart. He will be seen for what he is – a lying, conniving, God hating, Christian despising, blood lusting, pride hungering fallen angel. He will be exposed.
- Another primary purpose of the Tribulation is for the rebellion of man’s heart against the gospel of grace to be fully demonstrated – even during all these terrible things unleashed on planet earth – from stars falling from their orbits to a global earthquake to water turning into blood and a worldwide famine to demons unleashed to torment the human race – even to a global darkness which will envelop everyone but those who’ve come to believe in Christ – yet even though mankind knows that all of it is the wrath of God against unbelief, they will refuse to repent. The rebellion of man’s heart against God will be fully demonstrated;
There is one more purpose for the Tribulation which John revealed: not only will Israel be revived nationally, God’s sovereignty displayed over all of creation; the counterfeit plan of Satan exposed as a lie and the rebellion of mankind reach self-destructive levels never seen before – in the midst of all of that;
- there will be millions of believes made up of people from every tongue, tribe and nation who will be saved through the preaching of the gospel – it will be the greatest spiritual awakening in the history of humanity.
Was John the first to prophecy of these events? Not on your life – He is the last to prophecy of these events.
- Amos prophesied of the wrath of God and a coming Gentile world power;
- Isaiah prophesied of Israel’s conversion along with cosmic disturbances;
- Zechariah prophesied of the salvation of Gentiles and the appearance of Christ;
- Daniel’s prophecies told us how long the Tribulation would last, the coming of the Antichrist as Satan’s Prince; the desecration of a newly guilt temple a coming world empire and the appearance of the Son of Man – the Messiah.
The tribulation ends with the second coming of Christ – not in the air to rapture His church, but John sees Christ in His second coming (in chapter 19) with His redeemed – riding on white stallions . . . already clothed in wedding garments.
We descend with Him to establish this glorious Millennial kingdom - a thousand years long.
Those who came to faith during the Tribulation and survived now become the population on earth that we, the redeemed – glorified, immortals – reign over as the earth is healed and populated over the course of a thousand years as Christ sits on David’s throne.
John next sees and hears something that we find hard to fathom. After a thousand years of benevolent rule when the earth and its population enjoy incredible success and health – mortals living for hundreds of years and even the animal kingdom reverting back to the conditions of the Garden of Eden where the lion will lay down with the lamb – in spite of all of this, Satan is able to raise an army numbering as the sands of the sea and they march toward Jerusalem and attempt to overthrow Christ the King and His beloved.
One word destroys them all, incarcerates Satan forever in Hell and the Great White Throne Judgment begins where all the unbelieving world of all time is judged and sentenced to an eternal hell.
And then – chapter 21 begins and John describes the Father’s house – and what a house.
Rising for miles into the sky and miles in every direction, the Father’s house of gold becomes the Capitol building of a brand new earth and a brand new universe.
Heaven, for us, is introduced.
The father’s house is set on gemstones the size of freight cars and its gates fashioned out of pearls the size of stadiums.
From His throne flows a river and on either side are orchards bearing fruit year round.
John describes heaven by telling us what will not be there – no more death, no more sadness or sorrow or pain.
Eternity has begun.
Alright, that was 2 ½ years in quick review!
And you might come to the end of just that review and say, “That’s gotta be science fiction . . . there’s no way all that is coming true . . . in fact, it’s too good to be true and you know what they say about things that are too good to be true? They aren’t true!”
And the angel commissioned to be John’s companion guide anticipates that kind of response from John and us and that’s why the Spirit of God moves immediately to this statement in verse 6 of chapter 22.
These words are faithful and true – John, you’re not dreaming! These magnificent scenes and these amazing promises are true. They will come to pass. / Henry M. Morris, The Revelation Record (Tyndale, 1986), p. 471
You can anticipate everything you’ve seen and everything you’ve heard literally taking place.
The Lord is the God who has directed the prophets before you and now you, John . . . these prophecies are equally true.
The ending is not too good to be true!
All these things will come to pass.
What anticipation . . . I can tell you personally, that I have come to look for the rapture as never before – it’s gotta be soon; and I have come to long for that moment when we return with Christ to set up a thousand year kingdom on earth where millions of tribulation believers will be under our rule as they populate the earth and commerce and education and the arts and the ministry of the gospel expands under Christ’s direct presence like never before imagined.
And we will be able for the first time in our lives to serve Christ as His co-regents in places He assigns for us throughout the world – and here’s the exciting part – we will serve Him with sinlessness and consistency and stability and perspective and balance and wisdom and undiluted joy.
Now in our glorified bodies, our old sinful flesh will never get in the way again. We will all be able to serve in such a way that every one of the redeemed will hear Him say, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.”
And that’s only the beginning.
But anticipation isn’t enough . . . there must be another response to all of what we’ve learned from John’s eyewitness account.
There must be application. Notice verse 7. Behold, I am coming quickly.
That word quickly means that everything related to the coming of Christ – including all that John has revealed to us – will happen in a short amount of time. It may seem to us to have been drawn out now for a long time – but from the perspective of eternity, everything in the Book of Revelation is going to happen fast. That’s the idea here. / Ibid, p. 472
Now notice what John writes in light of that truth – Blessed is he who heeds the words of the prophecy of this book.
You could render it, “take it to heart”. / Mark Wilson, Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary: Revelation (Zondervan, 2002), p. 130
Live! In light of what you’ve learned.
God didn’t give us the prophecy of end times so we’d just be smarter, but so that we would be surrendered.
John wrote in one of his earlier letters, When He appears, we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him just as He is. And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself. (1 John 3:2-3)
The truth of prophecy isn’t just to give us the ability to draw out a timeline and a chart – but for us to develop character and pursue the pleasure of Christ.
This is the consistent encouragement of scripture. Paul ends his statements on the coming resurrection of the believer at the rapture of the church in I Corinthians 15 by exhorting the believer, in light of that coming day to remain steadfast, immovable and to always abound in the work of the Lord and rest assured that all your toil will not be in vain when He comes. (1 Corinthians 15:58)
Paul also wrote in his second letter to the Corinthians that he preferred to be at home with the Lord and as a result of anticipating his future dwelling place, Paul writes, “Therefore, it is my ambition to be pleasing to Him.” (2 Corinthians 5:9)
One author put it well when he wrote in his commentary on Revelation that eschatology – that is, the doctrine of last things – the doctrine of future events – he wrote, eschatology leads to ethics. / Grant R. Osborne, Baker Exegetical Commentary: Revelation (Baker Academic, 2002), p. 783
In other words, we not only anticipate our future with Jesus Christ – we live in light of it!
Anticipation should lead to application.
What will happen to us later clarifies and motivates how we live now.
Even our gathering today – on the Lord’s day – is an application of our anticipation.
The writer of Hebrews put it to the church this way, Don’t forsake the assembling of yourselves together – this is every pastor’s favorite verse . . . how many times have you been beat over the head with that one? But why do we meet? So pastors can have some job security with people showing up? No – the writer of Hebrews isn’t finished, “so that you can provoke one another unto love and good works and all the more as you see the day drawing near.” (Hebrews 10:25)
In other words, you should be increasing your encouragement of one to apply the truths of scripture as you anticipate more and more the last days approaching.
The day is drawing near.
If the writer of Hebrews thought the day was drawing near – he lived 1,900 years ago.
How much more should we be filled with a sense of anticipation and also a desire to encourage one another toward the application of Biblical truths.
The day has drawn nearer than it’s ever been!
As John the Apostle, this old soldier of the cross, begins his final remarks he is and he wants us to be anticipating all of this and applying our lives in light of all of this.
John is so overwhelmed he falls at the feet of the angel to worship – notice verse 8. And when I heard and saw, I fell down to worship at the feet of the angel who showed me these things. 9. But he said to me, “Do not do that. I am a fellow servant yours and of your brethren the prophets and of those who heed the words of this book.”
You know what the angel has just done – he’s collected all the Old Testament saints represented by the prophets and those who heeded their words; together with all the angelic hosts of heaven and all the New Testament saints together – and the timeless command and privilege comes echoing from his lips to all of us – Worship God.
Anticipation leads application which ultimately leads him to adoration.
There is only One worthy of worship – the word here for worship is proskuneo (proskunew). It’s a compound word – pro (pro) – meaning toward, and kuneo (kunew) which means, well, let me just say it has an interesting history.
Etymologists have shown that kunew is related to the high German root word, kuss, which transliterated gives us our word, kiss. / Gerhard Friedrich, Theological Dictionary of the New Testament: Volume VI (Eerdmans, 1968), p. 758
Proskunew historically means “to kiss toward.”
It actually developed the religious practice of blowing kisses.
The Greeks showed their adoration for their many gods by blowing kisses toward their idols as a show of adoration for their gods. / Ibid, p. 758
It developed further to an act of bowing before a god and even a superior while at the same time moving your hand near your mouth in a circular motion . . . which meant you were blowing many kisses toward your superior.
This is what King Nebuchadnezzar did before Daniel after Daniel correctly interpreted the dream – he bowed and paid homage to Daniel.
Over time the word expanded to mean, trembling before a superior or serving or simply bowing toward a superior; which is what John is doing here.
He is paying homage to this angel – he is communicating that he believes the angel is superior to him.
He isn’t worshipping the angel because he’s suddenly become an idolater and he thinks that an angel is worthy of worship.
He is simply paying homage to the angel because after all the angel has shown him and explained to him, John assumes the angel is superior to him.
That explains the context for the angel’s response – notice again in verse 9, Don’t do that . . . I am a fellow servant of yours . . . in other words, I’m not your superior . . . I’m just a fellow slave of God.
I’m not better than you . . . the angel effectively educates John that there in the hierarchy of heaven, no one pays homage to any superior but to God alone.
So, blow kisses to God alone. He alone deserves adoration.
Hey what an interesting perspective. Every time you speak highly of God you – proskunew – you blow Him a kiss.
Every time you thank Him you blow Him a kiss. Every time you obey His word – you blow a kiss toward your Sovereign Lord.
You are paying homage to His singular superiority in your life.
So as John begins his epilogue, he makes it clear that all he has seen and all he has learned and transferred to us by the inspired text should produce at least three results in us.
A growing anticipation of delight in that coming day . . .
A commitment to application in light of that coming day . . .
And daily adoration for the One who alone has promised us that day and Who alone can deliver just as He has promised.
Can we help but love Him and live our lives for Him knowing that one day we will live with Him forever.
So anticipate that day . . . and live in light of it . . . and blow Him kisses as you wait for it . . . and thank Him ahead of time for this eternal future of grace and glory.
What glory it will be . . . what incredible, eternal glory!